Tag Archives: Indian Eastern Philosophy

Tantra for Westerners

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Tantra for Westerners: A Practical Guide to the Way of Action [Amazon, Bookshop, Local Library] by Francis King; newer edition Tantra: The Way of Action. A Practical Guide to Its Teachings and Techniques. [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library].

King Tantra for Westerners

King Tantra The Way of Action

Francis King’s treatment of Tantric practice in this volume is more attentive to authentic source materials and ethnography than most Neo-Tantric literature of the last few decades has been. Even so, he seeks to universalize it beyond its original south Asian context. His emphasis on what defines Tantra as such is not so much “sex” (as the typical Neo-tantrist would have it) as it is a dualist metaphysic and transgressive method.

Tantra is compared to ritual magic of the Golden Dawn school throughout the book. In particular, there is a claim that the tattwa materials that circulated in the GD were rooted in the Bengali Tantric text Nature’s Finer Forces published in English by the Theosophical Society. King carefully examines the correlations between the sat chakras and the qabalistic Tree of Life made by Aleister Crowley, J.F.C. Fuller, and Dion Fortune, rendering his own verdict and recommending related practices. He also weighs in on whether Crowley should be viewed–in King’s terms–as “an authentic, if unorthodox, tantric” (76), ultimately answering in the affirmative and citing (without details) various secret instructions of O.T.O. to support the point.

In this book, King has an awful lot of opinions for someone who does not make any direct admission to being an actual practitioner. Most of them sound quite sensible, but it’s reasonable to wonder about the nature of King’s authority when encountering his authoritative tone. His historical speculations on the relationship between the Tantras of different religious traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain) fall within what I understand to be the range of current scholarly views on the topic.

A set of appendices cover such diverse issues and items as psychedelic drug use in “Western tantra” (King’s basically against it), a revision of the invocation of the “Bornless One” for goddess devotions, and a comparison of Taoist “internal alchemy” to parallel Tantric practices.

Spiritual Centers in Man

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Spiritual Centers in Man [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Manly P Hall.

Hall Spiritual Centers in Man

The original and more descriptive title of this booklet was “An Essay on the Fundamental Principles of Operative Occultism.” The earliest copyright given is 1978, so that date may be the one of original publication. It consists of the main essay and a short appended paper. The essay breaks down into several series in different categories.

The first category is “seven cardinal requirements [which] constitute the fundamental ethic of occultism” (19). These “requirements” are on the whole sound enough. Of special note and interest is the adjuration to “shun all kinds of psychism and phenomenalism,” although this part also includes some funniness about “a comparatively high degree of Chelaship” (13-4).

Hall then inventories seven considerations for undertaking training in occultism: access to a teacher, duration of study, obligations of secrecy, hazards of black magic (“Dugpa sorcery”), the ban on commodifying the mysteries, the importance of equilibrium (of mind, body, and spirit), and the esoteric value of profane arts and sciences.

A third heptad is an inventory of the sat chakras. He identifies these with the seven churches of Asia from the Apocalypse, although without crediting James Pryse, whose Apocalypse Unsealed had provided this correlation in much greater detail as early as 1910. Hall does switch the attributions for Smyrna and Pergamos, while qualifying all of his attributions with “probably.” Hall writes, “The story of these centers is clearly set forth in the Book of Revelation, where the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven vials, and the seven voices all refer to the spinal centers and the various mysteries concerning them” (37).

Finally, he runs through the eight limbs of raja yoga, or “eight steps of the Yogi School,” devoting two or three paragraphs to each. Among these, he especially identifies pranayama with raising Kundalini in the central column of the body, and warns about its dangers to “the average Occidental” (40).

The paper at the end of the booklet is “A Synthetic Elemental Cross,” in which Hall expounds on cross symbolism generally–emphasizing its universal rather than Christian provenance–with particular reference to a Rose Cross emblem he had designed in 1923.